OK. So we’ve all had about a week to grouse and lick our wounds. It became officially official – because these things do make a difference, as we’ve come to find out — only a couple of days ago: All-Star SS Carlos Correa will not be a New York Met after all, instead opting to return to the Minnesota Twins. It’s unclear whether or not you can call it a “blow to the offense” for the Mets, since you can’t really miss what you never had, but the Mets certainly aren’t as powerful or dynamic as they were a week ago.

In fact, at this very early juncture, it’s impossible to tell if they’ve improved much at all since we last saw them on October 9.

Let’s start – as we must – with the whopper in the room, the contract to sign P Justin Verlander, a two year, $86.67 million deal, with a third-year vesting option. Verlander is coming off an AL Cy Young Award – which, in itself is remarkable, seeing as that was coming off a season lost to Tommy John surgery. He joins a pitching staff already loaded with talent, or at least it had been prior to the departures of Jacob deGrom, Chris Bassitt, and Taijuan Walker. If Verlander is seen as an insta-replacement for deGrom – as well, he should be – Japanese pitcher Kodai Senga and erstwhile St. Louis Cardinal Jose Quintana will be stepping in for Bassitt and Walker. Senga cost $75 million for five years, while Quintana was inked for $26 million over two. These two are the great unknowns, especially Senga, along with Verlander’s age/health. As it stands now, the rotation rounds out to Verlander, Max Scherzer, Carlos Carrasco, Senga and Quintana, with a combination of David Peterson/Tylor Megill waiting in the wings in case of injury or faltering performance. In the bullpen, Seth Lugo, Joely Rodriguez, Mychal Givens, and the Trevor Twins (May and Williams) were all lost to free-agency, while Edwin Diaz – thankfully! – and Adam Ottavino were brought back into the fold. Veteran David Robertson was also signed as a much-needed supplement.

On the other side of the ball, as they say, in the absence of Correa, the offense remains pretty much status quo. The only notable free agent signing was the retention of CF Brandon Nimmo on an eight-year, $162 million agreement. Disappointing C James McCann was jettisoned to Baltimore. He will seemingly be replaced by super-rookie Francisco Alvarez, in combination with another glove-first catcher, Omar Narvaez, signed from Milwaukee. Dominic Smith was non-tendered and signed with the Washington Nationals. General Manager Billy Eppler has yet to address the glaring shortage of right-handed power in general, particularly at the DH spot. Flirtations with Andrew McCutchen and Trey Mancini towards that end have gone the way of Correa. There has been persistent talk of pursuits of Adam Duvall and Tommy Pham, but there is nothing beyond the rumor stage at this point.

Can the Mets repeat their 101-win performance, as presently constituted? Can they even come close? From how it looks from here, the Mets are a third-place club. The NL East Champion Atlanta Braves – also a 101-win squadron – shored up their most glaring weakness at the catchers’ spot, trading for Oakland’s Sean Murphy, while the NL Champion Philadelphia Phillies made a raft of free-agent signings to improve their own pitching staff and defense. And other NL teams in the other two divisions – in competition with the Mets and everybody else for Wild Card slots next October – made improvements of their own, of course.

So it appears Mets’ owner Steve Cohen has spent an awful lot of money to basically stay in the same place. I know the game plan, the Los Angeles Dodgers’ blueprint – spend, spend, spend, spend and spend some more to stay in contention while the farm system gets a deliberate rebuild, then replenish losses through internal means, rather than external. It is a high-risk, high-reward stratagem that has paid off handsomely for Los Angeles thus far and it can be duplicated, assuming the Mets’ personnel people and scouting staff possess the same level of acumen and foresight as their West Coast counterparts – and trying to ensure that will take a different kind of spending, altogether. Of course, it can be done, but it certainly doesn’t appear easy.

The Mets, it seems at this point, are out of breath, just from trying to keep up.

5 comments on “The Mets had a busy, expensive winter. Was it enough?

  • MikeW

    I like the team, but, it is a fairly similar team to last year. The Mets still need a fourth outfielder a d would be nice to have another bullpen arm. The Braves and Phillies have both improved. 2023 is going to be a real battle. The Mets will have to get off to a fast start rather than having to battle back against those two teams.

    Next offseason, we can swing for Ohtani or maybe even Machado. Ohtani would be the best because Scherzer and Verlander will be a year older.

    Who knows, the Mets have been quiet for a couple of weeks. Maybe they have a trade up their sleeves.

  • Brian Joura

    The Mets won 101 games last year
    The Mets won 101 games last year

    If they can build a team that matches that – we should be very happy. I think it takes a special negativity to look at the team the Mets have assembled and think it’s a third-place team.

    • T.J.

      I don’t agree that it takes a special negativity to see the Mets as the 3rd best team on paper in the NL East. They are still really good coming off a 101 win season. So are the Braves. And the Phillies, coming off a WS run and strong final 3/4 season are better. It is very tight among these 3, which should result in an exciting 2023.

      I do agree that it leans negative to see them as the same team as 2022. Anything can happen via performance and injury, but there is good reason to believe starting pitching could be improved, as can the bullpen. And the lineup is already deeper with more power, despite not securing Correa. And they will likely improve further with a solid 4th OF and bullpen arm.

  • Paulc

    They are a 101-win team that improved. Offensively, Alvarez should be a huge upgrade over McCann/Nido at C and Ruf in a DH platoon with Vogelbach. That’s really the only significant offensive difference from last year.

    Verlander (5.9 bWAR replacing deGrom’s 1.4 bWAR in a truncated season), Quintana (3.4 bWAR replacing Bassitt’s 3.2 bWAR), and Senga (replacing Walker’s 2.6 bWAR) are all upgrades over last year.

    A slightly improved offense and upgraded rotation sounds like a first place team to me. Correa would have made a huge difference, so I’m hoping someday to see the details of his repaired leg which turned away two clubs.

  • NYM6986

    I too see 101 wins and think that a repeat of that total would be amazing and within reach. Despite our love affair with Jake deGrom, he started 11 games last year and won 5. Given his rebuilt arm, Verlander should give us 27 starts, 15 wins and a reasonable chance to win a number of his other starts. Senga is an unknown but highly touted and accomplished. And he’s being asked to be a #3 or #4 not the ace that he has been. And Max is max. Alvarez and Vientos at the RH DH is a significant upgrade and Vogelbach without the shift will be better than his successful first season. Look for him to share those duties with Baty at some point in the season. It is the potential more than the reality that makes Correa a loss because Escobar had a decent season even if his late explosion at the plate made it so. Look for Baty to take some time at 3B after a month at Syracuse. And despite his defense, dumping McCann, at significant expense, is a great addition by subtraction since he apparently lost his eye at the plate despite a documented hard hit rate.
    Third place team? Hardly. The Phillies won 87 games last year then caught fire in the playoffs ala the Marlins recipe from the past. Seems what we lacked was one more impact bat to carry the team during a slump and we did not get it returning essentially the same starting team as has been noted. We will likely get that bat at the trade deadline, but in the meantime we whined about the lack of offense from our DH and catcher positions and we addressed both. I like our chances to unseat the Braves from winning the division and moving further into the playoffs. LGM

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